Tuesday, February 26, 2013

He's Crafty

On Sunday night I went to bowling with a satchel full of zines to be folded and cut.  As I was sipping an adult beverage the bartender came over and asked me if I wanted my check or if I was going to continue crafting.  She then brought my tab over and my name was filled in as Crafty.  Ever since I've had the Beastie Boys stuck in my head.  I wonder what she would think if she were to see the project that I started today. 

I've long been interested in mail art but have never thought that I had a concept worthy enough of partaking in the process.  After seeing the Peter Madden lecture last week, however, I have had the blanket stitch that uses to hold each page together stuck in my head.  Today is struck me that that blanket stitch around pages looked a lot like the envelopes that I used to receive mail from my pen pal in Germany.  I immediately grabbed a drawing, folded it in half and began to sew.  I have a pile of zines to distribute and so I put one of those in each envelope.

I finished five envelopes today.  Two of them have already been sent out.  I am super stoked to be doing this.  I don't really know what the purpose of the drawing folded in half and made into an envelope is yet, thought I do know that it will take some effort to get the envelopes open.  There is a definite possibility that the drawings on the inside will be damaged, and I think I am rather particular to that idea.  There is something to this that I really enjoy and when I figure out what it is, I will be sure to let you know.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Seeing Peter Madden & DIY

Thursday through Saturday is a complete blur on this new schedule.  I work at SMCC until 4 on Thursday and then have until 3 pm Friday to make lesson plans for two classes on Saturday.  There's a bunch of deli time worked into Friday and Saturday as well.  I am not terribly good at keeping focused as I bump from one type of job to another.  Today, Sunday, I ended up sleeping for the first half of the day because I was exhausted.  It's not a bad thing, but it is a different thing.  Throughout the three days I have been thinking heavily on the Peter Madden lecture that I saw on Thursday before my illustration class. 

Peter Madden is the maker of "One-of-a-Kind Artist's Books, Printmaking, and Alternative Photography."  In his lecture on Thursday afternoon, he discussed his collections, obsession with traveling, and his fascination with hand bound books similar to the Book of Kells.  It was fascinating to see his methods of conceptual collage, as he worked metal, wood, canvas and paper into a variety of different shaped and sized books.  As I was sitting in the audience, it dawned on me that two projects that I have been trying to figure out need to be books.  I am sure that anything that I do will look nothing like Madden's work, but I definitely needed the catalyst.  The one project involves twitter friends and analog communication and the other is for a poet that I am trying to finish sketches for.  Both projects are rather in the formative stages, so I will share when I have a little more work done on each.

I also received news on Thursday that I was rejected from the show that I applied to in Brooklyn.  Admittedly that's not really a big deal, but whenever that happens I usually start looking hard for more things to do.  You have to keep busy and you need to find places to put your work.  It has to happen or nothing will ever come of any of this.  As usual I spent the better part of Friday morning looking for projects to apply to.  I applied to several places for shows but also found some interesting projects to participate in that required no applications.  One of these was Papergirl Belfast.  The idea of the project is amazing.  Works on paper, reproductions, photographs, anything that can be rolled up into a small tube is accepted, put in a tube and handed out by people on bicycles with messenger bags full of art.  This sort of interventionist approach is something that I want more out of my artwork, and so I had to participate.  Here's the info.

 I submitted a series of xeroxed copies of a piece that you may remember.  I signed each of my pieces with the robot signature in the lower left corner and printed out the address to my new website, which is still partially in the works but hopefully this gets me off of my butt so it gets done,  on the back. 

Running from job to job and having a ton of downtime during studio classes has enabled me to get a bunch of work done in sketchbooks even if I am not as capable of being home painting.  I suppose in the end this is equally as helpful.  Once I sit down to paint I already know what is going on.  Good all around.  Here are a couple pieces of late.

Lastly, while thinking about books and publishing, I started to think of working on an old project that never really materialized.  I also realized that all of my more serious work fits under this umbrella.  Mansruin was an old idea that I came up with the first time that I lived in Portland, ME, but I thought that it needed to be too pedantic in topics.  Now I realize that my recent works which do not feature creatures all are in a category that fits in the Mansruin style.  Here's an image of the cover and a work in progress drawing of one of the interior pages. 

Rad.  Zines.  I am pretty happy with how work is going right now.  I feel like I'm on the brink again.  I also feel like I'm going a bit mad, but then Ginsberg's got me covered, "I saw the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by madness...."  I can only hope that before I go mad I was starting with something great.  Let's be great.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Strip of Pavement Over the Abyss

Today I've continued my reading of Virginia Woolf's diaries.  She was an incredibly force of frailty and eloquence.  To read through a diary filled with so many anxious thoughts, a self effacing approach laying your every word open for posterity, I realize how little bravery there is in filling sketchbook after sketchbook with metaphorical imagery.  The metaphors of the artist are nearly never taken for what they actually mean.  The reader is even more puzzled by images than by words in this way.  Some symbols seem to ring true across the board, but others it is obvious do not.  I find this must be the case with the number of people who ask me if I use symbolism in my work and then immediately follow up with "What does this [or that] symbolize?"

I was most taken with a particular line from Woolf's diary today though.  And I feel that this line pretty much sums up my career as an artist and creative person trying to pave a way in the arts.
"And with it all how happy I am - if it weren't for my feeling that it's a strip of pavement over an abyss."

I have felt that abyss.  I am not sure that it is obvious.  Perhaps we all feel that abyss, but I am aware of it every day.  I keep working to attempt to stay ahead of it, to avoid plummeting.  This weekend a friend of mine and I had a conversation about how one is to put their boat on course.  I immediately thought of Nicely Nicely in Guys and Dolls, with his song "Rocking the Boat."  I suggested that artists, who see the world slightly differently, are actually the character that is standing in the boat.  Perhaps they need to stand as well.  Perhaps that is the way that makes the most sense for them.

After my reading I set to work on a couple new pieces, one of which was painted over my demo from Acrylics class this past Saturday and the other which I started to draw out during a phone conversation with my niece last evening.

The first piece has a lot more work to be put into it, while the second is pretty close to finished.  I am not sure what I am doing mixing flat color and painterly aspects in that first piece, but I kind of like it.  I will give it a bit more thought and post about it later.  I also think that I am going to do a post soon on color philosophy, so keep up if you're interested.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Henry Miller and Virginia Woolf

Today I will share several recent sketches from my favorite sketchbook, a series of patterns and shapes that I have been fiddling with, and my thoughts on some reading that I have been doing lately.  I want to start trying to get a little more out of this blog, specifically for me, and so I am going to be sharing some of the thoughts spawned from my readings.  I hope that you find this interesting and not overly informative or a chore to read.

I have been doing a lot of reading as of late.  This is at least in part because I have been teaching; searching for a golden nugget of information to pass onto a classroom full of people who may or may not have any interest in the thoughts and information that I can pass their way.  Today as I woke from a nap in between jobs I picked up Henry Miller, Big Sur, a book that I had borrowed from a friend and intended to finish long before now.  The excerpt that I read was incredibly apropos.  A group of uninvited visitors falls upon Miller's house in the rural area of Big Sur.  A woman seeks to look at his watercolors because she thinks that she has always needed a Henry Miller watercolor.

Miller gets incredibly excited, bringing out all of his paintings and laying them out in front of the woman.  The woman remains aloof, searching through all of the watercolors and then on to a painting that Miller's wife has done and then back to the watercolors, where she proceeds to pick out Miller's favorite to have.  Miller makes the case that that is his favorite, and so, he considers charging double what he would normally, but ends up selling it for shy of what it was originally to sell for. 

The group leaves and he is left to his gardening.  He ponders what people think of his work and his intentions and then relates it to his own failures in the garden.

"After dinner that evening, thinking to empty my mind of images, I took the lantern and going to the spot in the garden where the poison oak was thick, I hung the lantern to the bough of a tree and fell to.What a pleasure, what a ferocious pleasure, to pull up long, vicious roots of poison oak! (with gloves on.)  Better than making watercolors, sometimes.  Better than selling watercolors, certainly.  But as with painting, you can never be sure of the outcome.  You may think you have a Rommel, only to find you have a scarecrow.  And now and then in your ferocious haste, you pull up pomegranates instead of camphor weed."

Miller's words make so much sense.  It is not that I am an incredible gardener in the time that I am not painting, but I do understand having meticulous hobbies which take your mind out of creation and into a realm of comfort.  I understand also, how making errors in these hobbies, helps to alleviate some of the pain, and provide necessary perspective in dealing with the reception of your work.  Sometimes it does take reading another person's logic in order to realize that this is in fact what you are doing when you are cooking or tending to cacti, however.

I have also recently been reading excerpts from Virginia Woolf's diary.  She was an intense woman.  I find it immensely interesting to read her thoughts on other writers and on taking manuscripts to publishers.  Every bit of anxiety and unintentional contempt that I have ever felt for other people's work and for the people who elevate that work to that invisible pedestal that implies "good" is mirrored in these thoughts.  But I realize as I read these diary entries, that they are in fact thoughts.  They do not represent her overall feel towards the people around her, as my jealous thoughts are not the thoughts that constantly overwhelm me and my art making, however, they are natural thoughts to have and represent honest questions to be addressed when in a better state of mind.  In other words, this is the artist's moodiness that time has told us about.  All in all, though, I still find it a little terrifying to share that I do in fact feel occasional moments of jealousy or anger for others success.  Please do not think less of me.

These three drawings were part of a very cathartic Sunday.  There is something in the drop pieces about finding order within the jumble of thoughts that I have had since leaving school this second time.  There is something more there too, however.  I am not sure what it is yet, and so I must keep drawing them and figure out what it is.

Hope I didn't bore you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's About Time For an Expedition

The snow finally came this winter.  Lord knows how long it will be with us, but all around ten there 6 to 7 foot snow drifts looming over you.  People have shoveled small pathways along the sidewalk.  For the past two days as you walk around time all that you can hear is the laughter or people walking through or playing in the snow and the rumble of plow machines and front end loaders clearing up roads and driveways.  Yesterday I was even able to snow shoe on top of huge snow drifts overlooking Congress Street and from Park Street to Clark to go see a friend.  Once home the last two nights I took to painting at a healthy clip.  It is beautiful to be inside looking out the window at the world raging,  I put on a healthy mix of This Will Destroy You and set to painting more in the Musical Machines series.  Yesterday I shared an image of what the work looked like before I left for work at the deli.

Here is a more detailed shot of the larger blue panel in the middle.  I was really pleased with it.  This specifically was the piece that made some connections that I had been reaching for for quite some time.

Last night when I returned from work, I called my friend Ivy and set to painting two more panels before bed.  Life has been like that for the past couple weeks.  I have just wanted to paint in all of these moments.

I was really pleased with the color in both of these.  Some of the work is starting to fit very nicely with other small panels.  Some are a bit more discordant right now, but with the musical them to these mechanical bits, I am pleased for those connections at times as well.  I hope to be able to fill an entire space 1 foot high around the wall of an entire gallery.  All of the pieces will be grouped in one long "work."

Today, however, I will not be able to work on more paintings.  I must instead go start a trek with a colleague which is based on an idea we dreamed while staying up late on Thursday night chatting.  We are planning on making a Lewis and Clark style exploration, an exploration that is certainly unneeded at this time, and that is the point.  I'll share more details later when the whole thing has come to fruition. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The North Easter Means.

The North Easter means that I have a day off from teaching and only have to work a four hour shift at the deli.  This means that I have time to work on my new series which I have been getting really into over the past week.  I have been focusing on machines and hadn't added too much to that original idea until today when I determined that I was going to use one of my old drop drawings to start a machine piece with.  I think that this is a good direction.  I also enjoy the idea of re-using my present work, making it better by adding to it and subtracting from it.  As my ideas merge I think that they all grow stronger.  The connections, bonds and language that I am using becomes a more cohesive entity which can communicate to a wider audience.  The paint start to act as a medium to converse with the drawing and the drawing likewise to the paint.  As I am working back and forth with color, black and white line, and subject matter I start to lose a little of the hesitance that I create when I really like the way that a drawing or painting looks.  The cohesion makes for a better show, and stronger individual pieces as well.

Check out the line up that I laid out today.

I am very pleased especially with that middle segment.  Those were the leaps that I made today.  I will have to work into some of the others a bit more now that I am on a slightly newer track.  Hope you are fairing the storm well.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

No Sleep Til Brooklyn....

This week has been crazy.  A week and a half ago I found an open call for two person shows at Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.  Naturally I asked my friend Julia if she would be interested in putting something together for it since she already lives in Brooklyn.  She did, and then I decided to start a new body of work for my half of the images to submit.  I am glad that I did.  I think they are strong images and I think that they work well with Julia's stuff.  Hopefully the folks at Trestle Gallery will agree and we will get a show and I will be in New York City for the first time ever with my art.  That would be great.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Here are a few of the images that I put together for our proposal.

Of course, like most of my weeks, as soon as I was finished with my pieces for that proposal I became quickly aware that it was already the sixth of February and I didn't have this month's Thursday Night Throwdown poster done.  So I brainstormed ideas on a walk home from the coffee shop and started some thumbnails and ended up riffing off of the Edward Hopper piece Nighthawks.  I'm sure you'll see the resemblance. 

It's a pretty dope poster though.  I am super stoked with it.  Hope you are doing well and feeling as productive as I feel this week.  Only one more day until the weekend.  Rock it out.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ode to Rauschenberg and De Kooning

Today I was in want of another panel and I started to look around the studio for the spare panel that I was sure that I had.  I couldn't find the panel though.  I did however find a painting that I did not wish to keep.  The idea was weak.  At least the finished product with that idea was weak.  I decided that I wanted to get rid of it.  Usually I paint over images but this time I was more taken with the idea of Robert Rauschenberg erasing a Willem De Kooning drawing.  What was it for Rauschenberg to erase a De Kooning?  It's always been a piece that has stuck with me.  I never really understood why I thought it was important.  Sure there are lines of thought that you can read in books.  If you can believe the ideas that others preach to you I am sure that that is a good enough explanation for why something is important, but today as I was sanding my old painting down and creating this pile of dust I really started to see that the labor involved with both the addition and the subtraction of this work was more evident when it was no longer part of the piece.  At the same time, the product of the work then becomes a pile of dust which is also a pleasant correlation.  All that any of us produces eventually becomes dust.  We eventually become dust.

Here are a couple images of the sanding.

It is incredible to understand an artists' work through replication rather than through study.  I am glad that I thought of the piece this morning.  It is weird to feel so proud of a pile of dust, which I will have to sweep into the trash so as not to let my cats into it, but proud I am anyway.

More later.